A business event is a great way to promote your small business or network with other business owners, but it can quickly become overwhelming if you’re not experienced in event planning. The devil, as they say, is in the detail, and with some forethought you can make any event a memorable success.
It Takes Longer and Costs More than You Think
Underestimating time and cost are two of the major problems people planning small business events run into. Even very small events may take up to a couple of months to organise, with larger ones being up to a year in the planning.
Putting together a team of people who will each take responsibility for organising one aspect of the event helps draw the various threads together faster. Make sure you have regular planning meetings to keep everyone on track and deal promptly with obstacles that crop up.
Early on, decide on the end goals of the event. You may want to bring together local small business owners for networking or training, gain new customers, or reward old ones. There are many reasons why a business event would further your business aims. Deciding on the why helps you determine the how and where, what activities need planning, what category your guests will ideally fall into and how best to advertise and promote.
Early planning regarding financing is also advisable. Could you secure sponsorship or bring in complementary businesses to work with? Have you considered crowdfunding as a possibility? Crowdfunding is a good way of figuring out how much interest your event will attract, and if interest is slim it can save money through wasted effort. You could then refocus the event, or plan something completely different that would be better received.
Planning is a Skilled Activity
Doing things in the wrong order can lead to confusion and disappointment. Here is where your first attention should go:
- Make a list of everything you’ll need to include. Everything matters during a business event, from how you configure the seating, to parking, lighting, catering and entertainment. It will all reflect on your brand and business, and a list will help you avoid overlooking things.
- Choose dates with care. Check the calendar for other events that might clash, including national ones even if your event is local. Ideally your chosen date will fill a gap in your attendee’s calendar and encourage them to turn up.
- Decide what staging you need. Outdoor events could benefit from a marquee, speakers will need a stage and seating for the audience, plus you’ll need a sound system. At the same time, think about the insurances you need.
- Be flexible with venue and event size. Visions can change, and as the planning progress you may find a need to compromise in order to spend more elsewhere. Just keep in mind your original reason for the holding the event, and hold true to that. Everything else can be flexible.
- Set your limitations. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and be aware of time and budget constraints. Calling on friends can bridge gaps, and a willingness to compromise creatively can help make corner-cutting invisible to attendees.
Have a Marketing and Promotion Plan
Tireless marketing is the key to successful promotion, which is never once and done. In marketing materials, whether printed, spoken through local radio or achieved through social media, consider:
- Reasons why people should attend, or in other words ‘what’s in it for them’. Freebies, rewards, discounts and other gifts always go down well. If all your attendees are from the business community, consider inviting expert speakers and fresh educational materials.
- Make sure promotions include information on what people will learn, who they will see and how else they’ll benefit. If you’re hiring speakers, provide them with promotional copy so they can easily draw in their own followers.
- Don’t forget traditional press, but avoid making sales pitches. Give journalists basic information of what and where, and how they can contact you for expert information.
- Maximise online promotions. Twitter hashtags help get things moving (make sure you choose something unique) so make sure it’s on all your promotional materials. Buy Facebook ads or create online hangouts and chats, or make a video to place on YouTube.
A final bonus tip is to have contingency plans for everything. You never know what might happen, so try to have backup plans and you’ll be a lot less stressed as the date approaches.